Growing numbers of Hungarian women choose Vienna for their abortions


Growing numbers of Hungarian women choose Vienna for their abortions


Hungary, whose abortion has been legal since 1992 and where religion has little influence on society, might nearly be said to be a place where access to abortion is completely unproblematic. Except that medical abortion is prohibited and there are two required appointments with a daycare provider. As a result, Vienna is home to hundreds of abortions performed on Hungarian women each year.

Hungarian clinics carried out surgical abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy, much as they did prior to the pandemic, in contrast to Poland and Romania, two nations where access to abortion was severely restricted during the pandemic. Covid-19 testing, which was previously provided on-site without charge, is now obviously required. This was the situation at the public hospital 50 kilometers outside of Budapest where gynecologist Ildikó (first name altered) practices.

These procedures cannot be delayed, therefore they weren't, she explains. The only thing that changed was that if the patient's Covid-19 antigen test was positive, she was sent home and required to take a PCR test, but we were always careful to ensure that she didn't go over the legal time limit, the doctor says. Contrary to popular belief, the pandemic has actually made it simpler to obtain the morning-after pill, which often requires a prescription and a trip to the doctor. In Ildikó's facility, all it takes to get a prescription during the pandemic is a quick phone call and a few brief questions.

There are two required meetings with the childcare provider.

Despite the fact that abortion is permitted in Hungary, people frequently overlook the fact that the 1992 law controlling it speaks of "the protection of the life of the fetus." Therefore, legally speaking, only "a major crisis scenario that causes physical or mental disruption or social impossibility" qualifies as an abortion. Even if there isn't really a reason to have an abortion, it is still required to schedule two meetings with family services once a pregnancy has been confirmed, which can sometimes be more than three days apart. The childcare provider, or more accurately, the "védn," enters the picture in this situation.

She goes over the terms of adoption, the many forms of contraception, and the financial assistance and organizations that are available to prospective mothers during the initial appointment. She also briefly discusses abortion in her speech. The topic of abortion is covered in greater detail during the second interview, along with the legislative restrictions, the technique utilized, the organizations that perform the procedure, and, once again, contraception.

The patient's selected institution receives the application, and the patient has eight days to check in there. Except in certain circumstances, the cost of an abortion in Hungary is 41,667 forints (about €115), and health insurance does not cover it (rape, life of the pregnant woman in danger, financial precariousness, etc.).

The issue is that the nurses and daycare providers, who are free to conduct the interviews as they see fit, are accustomed to following expectant mothers and the newborn's first few weeks. Some people don't think twice when it comes to lecturing and "moralizing" the pregnant lady in favor of the "unborn kid," going so far as to emotionally blackmail her.

A 2014 research by the women's rights organization Patent found that 13% of the 101 women who left the védn's office felt traumatized by the interview's subject matter. In reality, these meetings are obviously intended to try to influence your mind, says Patent activist Krisztina. She asserts, "Who wouldn't want to avoid such an embarrassing situation?" and adds that she is aware that more and more Hungarian ladies are opting to travel to Vienna.

Abortion finds refuge in Vienna

Gynecologist Christian Fiala, who sees 10 to 15 Hungarian women a week at his Gynmed clinic in Vienna, agrees that the situations that Hungarian women describe to us are absurd. He claims that their number has been rising for roughly eight years, in contrast to Hungary, where the number of abortions done has been declining since the 1990s.

The idea of "reflection time" is actually demeaning since it implies that women must suddenly consider it as if they had never considered it before, according to the 61-year-old Austrian physician. Diána, a Hungarian assistant to Dr. Fiala until 2019, claims that "the two mandatory appointments are one of the key reasons why Hungarian ladies come to us." "I had two or three patients who were forced to view the anti-abortion movie The Silent Scream," which the scientific community had criticized.

After the screening, the childcare provider said they were about to "murder their child!" during these interviews, according to Diána. The medical student continues, "We also have Hungarian ladies who wish to stay away from the broken Hungarian health system from the start and are willing to pay the price.

For a Hungarian wage worker, an abortion in Austria costs €560 up to the 10th week and €600 beyond that. After the initial medical consultation, an overnight stay must be added to this. The legal time limit is another reason why Hungarian women obtain abortions in Austria. Austria allows surgical abortions up until the 14th week of pregnancy, two weeks longer than Hungary.

Women in Hungary seek medical abortions

Vienna also offers the option of a medical abortion, which is legal there - unlike in Hungary - up until the ninth week of pregnancy. In 2012, Miklós Szócska, the Orbán administration's then Secretary of State for Health, cited a "dispute in the profession" and disallowed the WHO-recommended medical abortion from being offered in Hungary.

Misoprostol and Mifepristone, two compounds that the Hungarian pharma administration had already registered, never obtained the official go-ahead. Private Budapest clinic Rózsakert Medical Center, which had provided them for two years before the official ban, was forced to cave in 2012 as a result of pressure from Fidesz-KDNP conservatives.

According to Christian Fiala, the majority of his Hungarian patients choose medical abortions. According to Diána in Vienna, "Hungarian women prefer medicinal abortions during the early stages of pregnancy since in Hungary they are informed that if they get a surgical abortion, they cannot have a kid later on, which is entirely wrong.

One of Ildikó's patients, who was undergoing her tenth abortion in Hungary due to a lack of knowledge about contraception and abortion, rejected the IUD as a means of contraception, claiming that she wished to have children later on. The physician adds that "Hungarian women have a lot of misconceptions regarding contraception. I wanted to inform her that she would be more likely to be sterile after 10 abortions than with an IUD. They finally tell themselves that their spouse will "pull out," which, in her opinion, says a lot about sex education in Hungary.

Similar to what Polish women experienced, travel restrictions, closed hotels, reduced transportation options, a potential need for a mandatory return quarantine, challenging childcare issues, and other restrictions affected Hungarian women who chose to have a procedure in Vienna during the pandemic. However, Vienna is only 2.5 hours by car and requires only one border crossing for Hungarians. In any case, they have always been able to enter Austria using the pass issued by Gynmed.

A Challenge for Foreigners

For foreigners, getting an abortion in Hungary can be a real challenge. A residency permit is one of the requirements for getting an abortion. When Melody unexpectedly got pregnant during her Erasmus year in Budapest in 2012, she made the decision to get an abortion there. "I assumed that it was legal in Hungary and that I should have the same healthcare rights as I did in France. Even though I was aware that the follow-up wasn't the same, I had the impression that I would be treated like an EU citizen.

Melody is still pregnant despite numerous drawn-out visits to various doctors and clinics and an interview with the childcare provider. "I was asked to provide evidence that abortion was allowed in France, and the embassy verified that such evidence was nonsensical since it lacked the necessary document... Then, a verification of who knows what document was required, resulting in a further delay of several weeks.

She eventually had to get an abortion at Dr. Fiala's clinic. Everyone has an opinion about your body, and something is growing inside of you. You are a visitor to a nation where you should be given protection. She is horrified by how little control she, the main party involved, has over the situation. "And when you think you're at the end of the red tape... you're still not there," she says. "I felt listened to in Vienna. She continues, "I felt like I was finally escaping the storm and the savagery of other people's perceptions of women's bodies.

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